RESEARCH FINDINGS 

REGARDING SCHOOLING FOR LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENT STUDENTS

U.S. Department of Education
April 29, 1998


Improving Schooling for Language Minority Students: A Research Agenda
National Research Council, 1997

"The key issue is not finding a program that works for all children and all localities, but rather finding a set of program components that works for the children in the community of interest, given that community's goals, demographics, and resources." (p. 138)

"Programs are not unitary, but a complex series of components. Thus we think it better to focus on components than on programs. As we argue later, successful bilingual and immersion programs may contain many common elements." (p.147)

"Historically, programs are described as unitary; a student is either in a program or not. The current debate on the relative efficacy of immersion and bilingual education has been cast in this light. However, as noted above, we need to move away form thinking about programs in such broad terms and instead see them as containing multiple components features that are available to meet the differing needs of particular students. Thus two students in the same program could receive different elements of the program. Moreover, programs that are nominally very different especially the most successful ones may have very similar characteristics. These common characteristics include the following:

  • Some native language instruction, especially initially
  • For most students, a relatively early phasing in of English instruction
  • Teachers specially trained in instructing English-language learners" (p. 156)
Longitudinal Study of Structured Immersion Strategy, Early-Exit, and Late-Exit Transitional Bilingual Education Programs for Language-Minority Children
Ramirez et al., 1991

"Students in all three programs [English-only immersion, early-exit bilingual, and late-exit bilingual] realized a growth in English-Language and reading skills that was as rapid or more so than the growth that would be expected for these children had they not received any intervention." (p. 143)

"Staff training and development are important components of effective schools for English-language learners." "Staff development for all teachers in the school, not just language specialists, was an important component of many [effective] programs." (p. 183)

"The following attributes are identified as being associated with effective schools and classrooms: a supportive school-wide climate, school leadership, a customized learning environment, articulation and coordination within and between schools, some use of native language and culture in the instruction of language-minority students, a balanced curriculum that incorporates both basic and higher-order skills, explicit skills instruction, opportunities for student directed activities, sue of instructional strategies that enhance understanding, opportunities for practice, systematic students assessment, staff development, and home and parent involvement." (p. 162)

Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children 
National Research Council, 1998

"If language minority children arrive at school with no proficiency in English but speaking a language for which there are instructional guides, learning materials, and locally available proficient teachers, then these children should be taught how to read in their native language while acquiring proficiency in spoken English, and then subsequently taught to extend their skills to reading in English." (p. 11)

"The critical importance of the teacher in the prevention of reading difficulties must be recognized, and efforts should be made to provide all teachers with adequate knowledge about reading and the knowledge and skill to teach reading or its developmental precursors. It is imperative that teachers at all grade levels understand the course of literacy development and the role of instruction in optimizing literacy development." (pp. 9-10)

Briefing by Dr. Kenji Hakuta at the Aspen Institute: Seminar on Bilingual Education with Congressional Leaders (from Dr. Hakuta's Web site at Stanford University)

"When strict comparisons are made that control for the background factors, children learn English at the same rate regardless of the kinds of programs they are in, i.e., instruction through the native language does not slow down student acquisition of English. It takes most students 2 to 5 years to attain a level of proficiency in English that does not put them at a disadvantage in regular instruction. Their rate of acquisition of English depends on the level of development of the native language children with strong native language skills learn English rapidly. Motivation to learn English is uniformly high both among parents and the students."

"The system for assessment and accountability around the standards demands immediate attention if L.E.P. students are to benefit from current reforms. L.E.P. students are often assessed for their English proficiency, but not for content knowledge. Currently, most L.E.P. students are excluded from local, state and national assessment and accountability systems. In NAEP, for example, approximately half of L.E.P. students are not included because of their English proficiency. A common practice among states is to exclude L.E.P. students from state assessment for 2 or 3 years. I am not suggesting that new laws be passed on this, because existing provisions in Goals 2000, Title I of IASA, and the Department of Education Organization Act all speak clearly to this: standards and assessment are to fully include L.E.P. students and innovations are encouraged. But this is only slowly happening, in large part limited by the development of strategies to include L.E.P. students in assessment and accountability systems. This knowledge is well within reach, and legislators might demand a plan and progress reports from appropriate offices within the Department of Education or independent bodies, such as the National Academy of Sciences or the National Academy of Education, on how this is being accomplished."

"The area of the professional preparation and development of teachers is another critical problem. The shortage is not just limited to bilingual education teachers, but also extends to teachers of all programs that serve L.E.P. students. The recently completed efforts of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to develop standards for Bilingual and ESL Teachers should be applauded as the "deluxe" model, but the magnitude of the problem is staggering when we look at the other elements of professional preparation such as schools of education, state certificate requirements, professional development models, and Title VII incentives. In addition, current knowledge about the effectiveness of strategies for teacher education and the assessment of teacher knowledge and skills is very limited. Lawmakers should demand a systematic inquiry into ways to understand, support and coordinate all of these efforts."

How Much Bilingual Education? Educational vs. Legislative Considerations
Dr. Steven Sandoval-Martinez, 1984. National Center for Bilingual Research (NCBE #BE014874)

"A time limitation, in the absence of any stipulation that would allow a child to achieve a level of English language competence essential to effective academic progression, would be educationally and economically disadvantageous to the schools as well as to the LEP child. Thus, the legislative challenge continues to be one of achieving a balance of program and research evidence in continuing to address the needs of the LEP child." (p. 17)